G7 summit: The dodgy president? Biden is a talking point

Joe Biden’s age is a constant topic in the US presidential election campaign. There are also discussions about his condition on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy.

It is a strange scene: the heads of state and government are watching a show by skydivers at the G7 summit in southern Italy. They look up to the sky, US President Joe Biden stares up with his mouth open, wiping his lips every now and then. After the skydivers land, he takes a few steps towards one of them, very slowly, giving him a raised thumbs up, until the summit host, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, touches his arm and asks him to return to the group for a talk on the presentation.

The 81-year-old listens with his mouth open, puts on his aviator sunglasses in slow motion and then stands there completely still, arms dangling and motionless, while the other heads of government next to him try to look either interested or friendly and Meloni, as she did several times that day, adjusts her very long and very wide trousers. Yes, the president does not seem particularly powerful in that scene. But for anyone who regularly observes the oldest US president of all time, a moment like this is an everyday occurrence. On the sidelines of the G7 summit, however, it is a topic of conversation how shaky the most powerful man in the world is presenting himself on the international stage.

Material for Trump’s election campaign machine

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was even asked about the scene by journalists and played it down, saying Biden was only being “polite” to the parachutists. Since Biden is in the middle of his election campaign for a second term, the election campaign machine of Biden’s challenger Donald Trump is particularly interested in scenes like this.

“Biden’s cognitive decline is clearly visible at the G7 summit,” Trump’s campaign team ranted about the parachute scene. “You could see Biden staring into the distance and wandering around like a brain-dead zombie.” Meloni basically had to catch him again. The USA’s opponents would be delighted to see this.

Republican Party campaigners dissect every statement and every move of the incumbent to portray him as a senile old man who is on the verge of collapse and unable to speak a coherent sentence – let alone lead the country. At Biden’s first stop in Europe, his visit to France, Trump’s campaign team distributed various video clips to make Biden look particularly old – but everything was distorted, shortened and edited in such a way that it was taken out of context and not in keeping with reality.

Constant mistakes

But the truth is that Biden, a grandfather of seven, makes mistakes every day and is not particularly agile. He walks stiffly – even the president’s personal physician confirms this in every published health check. The Democrat moves slowly and approaches stairs with caution. At almost every appearance he slips up, doesn’t finish sentences or stumbles over complicated words – and not just because he grew up with a stuttering problem.

Biden repeatedly confuses the names or nationalities of foreign heads of state and government. French President Emmanuel Macron, for example, recently identified Biden as his predecessor, François Mitterrand. When the Americans launched airborne food deliveries to the Gaza Strip in the spring, Biden accidentally announced in the White House that the food packages would be dropped over Ukraine.

The office of US President is considered one of the toughest jobs in the world. Biden is doing it at an age when others have already been retired for many years. Now the election campaign is added to the mix. Around the G7 summit, Biden will be jetting back and forth between the US and Europe twice within two weeks. And from the summit in Italy, the Democrat will fly straight on to Los Angeles on the US West Coast to campaign there. Something like that can exhaust even people who are half Biden’s age.

Skipped dinner

At the G7 meeting on Thursday evening, the US President skipped the celebratory dinner. This was also noted carefully and was hastily interpreted by the Italian media as a sign of Biden’s “exhaustion”. However, the Democrat was still working at the time and was appearing at the same time with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. There, too, Biden got bogged down in his statements several times.

In just under two weeks, Biden will face a real test: the first TV duel against Trump. 90 minutes of live debate on TV against an unpredictable opponent who is also a senior citizen and constantly makes embarrassing mistakes himself, but is also a master of showmanship. Trump turned 78 today, of all days. Biden sent his opponent birthday greetings despite the bitter election campaign and constant attacks. “Happy 78th birthday, Donald,” wrote the Democrat on Platform X. “Let one old guy tell you this: age is just a number.”